Are job perks underrated?

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jacob
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Are job perks underrated?

Post by jacob »

Hearing m741 talk about the perks of his new job, I found myself a bit envious because I get slightly fewer perks in my job ;-P However, it led me to think that perhaps companies [seriously?] underrate the value of perks compared to compensation. Maybe especially when it comes to tightwads, like this forum?

Or maybe it's me who seriously overrate them?

I always maintained that if I ever get to run a research group at a university (fat chance, but who knows...), I would definitely supply free gourmet coffee to the grad students out of my own pocket too---because that would probably be the only way to make it so. The benefits of drugging your employees with mental performance enhancing drugs like caffeine seem too material to be overlooked.

Personally, I enjoy about 75% of m741's perks. Compared to academia and government, which had ZERO perks, this is amazing! I wonder what the paycheck-increase equivalent is for me. My guess it would in the low-tens [of thousands of bucks]. Seriously! Irrationally, I would prefer to be paid substantially less simply in return for "free stuff". I know it's irrational, but is it unusual? In this group? In the general population?

m741
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Re: Are job perks underrated?

Post by m741 »

Perks are a very good deal for companies - I've always thought so, and will continue to think so.

The classic perk is free food. Tech companies do this, and the financial company I worked for used to do this until 2010 or so. It's a great deal to get salaried workers to stay an extra hour or two in exchange for food, which could cost maybe $25. $25/hour is far below the pay rate of many professionals, including programmers. I'd agree that there is a sneaky bonus to free food for tightwads, which is a surprisingly liberating feeling of just grabbing food and not looking at the price tag - something I'm constitutionally unable to do elsewhere.

What about other perks? Casual clothing is free for the company and makes workers happy. That's a good deal. And letting people cut loose a bit - with ping-pong or pool - makes them happy, probably more productive, and gives them a reason to view the office as 'home.' All good for the company. Additionally I think they have a strong impact on turnover. "Oh, I could change companies, but they won't have Mario Kart there? Might as well stay..."

For my part, I couldn't care less about dress code. Food is nice, but I only value it for what it's worth, which is about $5k/year (for good food, 14 meals/week). I really enjoy ping-pong, and it's also great to get away from the desk for a little while, so to me that's the best perk. I'd say collectively I value all these perks about $10k/year.

Perks are nice, and a good value for the company providing them, but to me they're on a completely different tier than hours worked, interesting work, or salary.

arrrrgon
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Re: Are job perks underrated?

Post by arrrrgon »

It makes a huge difference to me. If something comes up I can leave almost any time to go take care of it. My boss takes us all out for lunch on our birthdays and he takes us out for Christmas as well. He loans us the company truck any time we need it. The freedom at my job is what keeps me there. I could make more money somewhere else, but I'd lose a lot of freedom. My wife and I are having our first kid soon and I know that if something comes up I can leave work and take care of him as long as I finish my work up a different time. There aren't many IT jobs in small towns that work the way mine does. Sure I have to fix the occasional server or network at 3 in the morning, but it's very rare.

jacob
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Re: Are job perks underrated?

Post by jacob »

Thinking further ... one of the perks of academia was that nobody counted time ... as long as you produced results, you could take as much vacation time as you wanted. (Of course during those vacations, you'd still be thinking about work, doing research, bringing your laptop and a few papers to peruse to the beach. Nobody were ever off the clock.). Also the amount of bureaucracy was at a minimum---dunno if I would consider this a perk as much as simply the state of affairs.

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Ego
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Re: Are job perks underrated?

Post by Ego »

jacob wrote:Irrationally, I would prefer to be paid substantially less simply in return for "free stuff". I know it's irrational, but is it unusual? In this group? In the general population?
You are describing my life! My "jobs" are done exclusively for perks. Well, almost exclusively. I like to yell at people too.... which is why I enjoy teaching spin. Actually, come to think of it, I get a great deal of pleasure yelling at seniors too.... :?

If I wouldn't buy the thing myself then I don't really get that funny jolt of pleasure from it. The cable-tv rep has been trying to get us to hookup premium cable for free so we'll promote it to our tenants. They think we're nuts when we refuse. OTOH, getting free rent, free internet and a free gym membership gives me a happy little feeling inside, like I am somehow beating the system.

I think if I worked at m741's place I would have a great deal of difficulty refraining from stuffing my pockets with food and filling my thermos with tea for the next morning.

Is it irrational? It probably stems from our desire to barter with one another. It is as if my employers and I have conspired to avoid the whole rigamarole of working for one person to earn money to buy stuff from someone else. We make legal off-books trades. Both of us come away happy and we eliminate the transaction costs. Win-win.

I've been trying find a way to get organic produce as a perk. I approached some of the farmers at our local farmers market asking if they would allow me to help them in exchange for leftover produce. They've been reluctant because the Buddhist council has agreements with the farmers to take the leftovers, make meals and feed the needy. Damn those Buddhists!

sshawnn
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Re: Are job perks underrated?

Post by sshawnn »

The days in the open heart operating rooms started very early. The first case was in the room by 6:30 which meant that I had already been working for nearly an hour. The rooms were igloo cold and the break person usually came around about 10:00, the same time that the first injection of free food from the private hospital to it's medical staff came up. The gourmet soup that was out each day at 10:00 was a moral builder for the cold, already tired providers. Free lunch of sandwiches or leftover catering from a board meeting followed shortly after usually eaten in between cases. That was 10 years ago and the freebies are nothing but a memory in area private hospitals. Provider moral was MUCH better then than the persistent humdrum these days. The absence of free food is not the whole reason moral declined but I think it helped.

borisborisboris
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Re: Are job perks underrated?

Post by borisborisboris »

Do taxes have anything to do with it? Let's say you are a fancy executive in the top tax bracket (39.6%), and you want to have a $1,000 dinner.

If you pay for it out of your salary, you are using after-tax dollars, so it costs you 1k/(1-.396) = $1,650 out of your gross income. That is, the company had to pay you 1650 so you could buy dinner.

However, if the company pays for it, it's an 'entertainment expense' and it reduces their taxable profit by $1k. Therefore, they pay essentially 1k*(1-.396) = $604 Clearly this is way more efficient.

I don't actually know if it would work out this way in practice. But, the discrepancy would increase as tax rates increase. This is consistent with my Dad's anecdotes about company perks being way better back in the 70s, when top tax brackets were like 70%.

Felix
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Re: Are job perks underrated?

Post by Felix »

I think perks is just a way to describe better working conditions. We in this forum especially, being the tightwads we are, prefer not to spend our own money to increase them. I think rightfully so, that's the employer's job. Given that you spend a substantial amount of your waking time at work, this increase in living conditions basically means a substantial increase in quality of life. It's a great deal for companies, because it's relatively cheap and they can get away with paying people less.

Chris
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Re: Are job perks underrated?

Post by Chris »

I came here to mention the same thing boris*3 did: taxes.

Meals on the premises of the company are not considered a form of compensation, and aren't taxable to the employee. If your employer pays you less salary to cover the cost of food, you're "paying" for the meal with unpaid -- yet pre-tax -- compensation. You benefit because you're effectively getting the food at a lower cost than your lost net pay. On top of this, your employer is also not paying their share of FICA. Also, the cost for your employer to acquire the food in bulk is probably cheaper than you'd acquire the same food for yourself, on an individual basis.

At least for employer-paid meals, I'd say that they are an underrated benefit.

Chad
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Re: Are job perks underrated?

Post by Chad »

I missed m741's list of perks post, but my answer is an unequivocal "it depends."

I could careless and actively dislike the free food and coffee perks. I don't like or drink coffee, so that's the obvious reason I don't care for that perk. Concerning food, in my experience it is generally garbage food and not even good garbage food. If I'm going to consume crap calories I don't want Papa John's. I want the local high quality pizza. Now, if I had access to some of those really nice high quality free Silicon Valley cafeterias, I would probably change my mind.

The perks that arrrrgon talks about are more to my liking. The freedom to basically manage your time and workload is a huge perk for me. Most places, especially in older cities, still operate management policies from the early 1900's.

Along with the freedom of time management, my current job offers me a ton of vacation days.

So, yes for some perks and a definitive no for others.

Seneca
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Re: Are job perks underrated?

Post by Seneca »

I think they are underrated by companies, but in part because so many employees undervalue them being so dependent on paychecks.

We used to have a stock purchase plan that guaranteed a minimum 15% return on contributed funds in only 3 months. The finance guy for our group used to go crazy so few participated and any time we'd all go out for happy hour (perk!) he'd try his hardest to recruit more people to participate. Only a small minority of employees ever chose to and they eventually used a downturn as an excuse to kill this amazing benefit.

When I got out of college I chose the option that paid less because I knew I was going to get to travel quite a bit overseas which allowed me to use my money to do other things I wanted to, never have regretted the choice.

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Re: Are job perks underrated?

Post by Spartan_Warrior »

There is a sliding scale of perk-usefulness and it probably varies by individual. For me, like Chad, I could care less about the "free coffee and donuts" type perks. Ditto any "staff picnics", "Christmas parties", or "happy hours", which to me are simply boorish social obligations more than perks.

I've never worked for a company that offered "real perks" of the Silicon Valley type: gourmet food, nap times, ping pong tables, etc. I can't say how these would affect me. I don't think I would sit around the office longer just to eat free food, etc. (Though I might fill my pockets at lunch time, hah.) I think it would be more the laid-back culture of the kind of company that would offer these perks, rather than the perks themselves, that would have the biggest impact on the quality of the working conditions.

If flexible work schedules/working from home counts as a perk, this is the only one that really matters to me. It's also probably the sole reason why I'm still trudging on in my current position. It's uninteresting, but at least I only have to physically be in the office twice a week.

arrrrgon
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Re: Are job perks underrated?

Post by arrrrgon »

Working from home is a definite perk SW. I'd love to have that one. My brother gave up working from home to make a bit more money at one point. I told him he was crazy.

Seneca
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Re: Are job perks underrated?

Post by Seneca »

I forgot about one, I'm not a cheapskate, so for me it's just dollars and cents value.

My wife is a bit of a cheapskate however, and LOVED the perk of being able to slurp free coulombs at 220V (after we had the EVSE modded) for her Nissan Leaf at work. It was worth about $200/mo in lower fuel bills to us, but it gave her a thrill way outside the proportion a raise of $200/mo would've given.

Chad
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Re: Are job perks underrated?

Post by Chad »

Seneca wrote: My wife is a bit of a cheapskate however, and LOVED the perk of being able to slurp free coulombs at 220V (after we had the EVSE modded) for her Nissan Leaf at work. It was worth about $200/mo in lower fuel bills to us, but it gave her a thrill way outside the proportion a raise of $200/mo would've given.
I can understand that one. It would make you feel like you are gaming the system and winning.

Chad
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Re: Are job perks underrated?

Post by Chad »

Spartan_Warrior wrote:There is a sliding scale of perk-usefulness and it probably varies by individual. For me, like Chad, I could care less about the "free coffee and donuts" type perks. Ditto any "staff picnics", "Christmas parties", or "happy hours", which to me are simply boorish social obligations more than perks.
Agreed on the "staff picnics", "Christmas parties", or "happy hours."

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Re: Are job perks underrated?

Post by JohnnyH »

I had an internship that paid $300/mo... BUT, following perks: health insurance, car + gas card + insurance, cell phone, PC, internet, project budget, rent in $1m house + all utilities. I had to buy food and beer, that was basically it.

Gave all that up to make a wage that wouldn't have covered half of all that, and pay taxes for the privilege!... Swimmin' upstream, ftw!

The gas card was especially weird for me, I drove all over several states... Once I took the job, instant austerity; no cell, no driving, no heat... Girl I was dating went into shock, and left ;)

Intern job was very low pressure as well. There was an unspoken agreement, "You're an intern and make no monies, so I don't expect much."

... Pretty sweet gig, almost like a perfect retirement... Might need to go back!

rube
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Re: Are job perks underrated?

Post by rube »

My perk: being able to decide myself when I work home, when I go to the office. Nobody is telling me what time I have to start or when I am allowed to stop, decide myself (within certain limits) when I work on what subject. Also 98% of the decisions I can take myself.
My manager is on another continent and seems to be happy how I "run" it here.

Essentially it is just: lots of freedom (even though I make 40 hours).

And that is really great. I wouldn't give that up for 10 or 20K more per year. You have to keep in mind also that I pay 52% tax, so net it's even less then half. Besides, I can always dress very casual, so no fancy suits or other expensive clothes, no expensive lunches etc.

And we have free coffee, but I don't drink coffee....

Tyler9000
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Re: Are job perks underrated?

Post by Tyler9000 »

I agree that perks are a big deal, not so much for the monetary value but for how they can help you feel appreciated and human.

Bragging on my current job for a moment: Fully stocked "concession stand" in the kitchen (fruit, snacks, any kind of non-alcoholic beverages you can think of) and they'll add pretty much anything you request. Individualized breakfast taco orders every Friday. Very flexible hours, with laptops you can check out if you need to work from home for some reason. Foosball table. Fully stocked workshop (tools, 3D printer, bandsaw, endmill, etc) where you're free to work on your own projects in your spare time. No real dress code to speak of. And the occasional unannounced surprise like a pre-paid food truck that shows up out front or a driving range outing in the afternoon. When I write it all out, it helps me realize I have it pretty good.

However, the biggest perk one can have, IMO, is company leadership that is truly compromised of good people. The owner and CEO of my company are genuinely nice people who care for their employees personally. Having experienced the opposite extreme a few times, I'd trade all the free coffee in the world for that one perk.

The one perk I've learned to actively avoid is a free company phone. The last thing I want is a reason for my boss to feel like he has permission to call me at all hours. I've had a job before where I was required to sign a document saying the owner could call me 24-7 on the company phone and not answering was a fire-able offense. He'd regularly wake people up at 3am. Needless to say, he was one of the very bad people to work for (a strong negative perk), and I didn't stay long.

workathome
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Re: Are job perks underrated?

Post by workathome »

I also have the "work at home" perk. It is nice I can sleep in late for any reason some days, or take the dog for a walk anytime on breaks, avoid the commute, etc.

I've also felt some satisfaction in "using my house" by literally using it for everything everyday, use the kitchen for all meals, etc. vs. coming home just to zone out on TV and sleep.

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